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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all - novice gearhead here, working on my s2 spider (European version). I've done quite a bit of work on my Spider over the 3 years I've had it, not mostly relatively straight-forward stuff (changing carbs, installing immobiliser, etc). Nothing like engine overall or serious things.

So, the problem - the car won't start & hasn't started for 6 months (I only recently returned focus to the car). I've combed this bulletin board for the treasure trove of info/ideas and so got to work.

When I turned the key there was no action whatsoever. Using the headlight test, I established the starter was getting enough juice (the headlights dimmed) but as it wasn't turning over, I replaced the starter. Tried again - nothing.

Like the novice I am, I THEN checked the battery connectors (I know, should have started with that). Tried again, the (new) starter made a noise - ie., it tried to start over the engine - I saw a whiff of smoke coming from under the carbs (i.e. where the starter sits) and now nothing. Turning the key results in silence.

Before I take the carbs off again and see what the new starter looks like (and possibly even replacing it back with the old one as the battery connectors may have been my problem), any suggestions?!
 

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It is tough to diagnose these things remotely. Let me ask a couple questions:

- What sort of starter did you install? Was it the same p/n as the one that it replaced? Was the shoulder bolt installed and put in the outer position? Was the shim present? What I am getting at is: Might the new starter be binding and unable to turn?

- How did the battery connections look when you worked on them? It sounds as if you fixed something, but you didn't say so.

Before I take the carbs off again and see what the new starter looks like (and possibly even replacing it back with the old one as the battery connectors may have been my problem), any suggestions?
One suggestion would be to not re-install the carbs until you are sure that the starter is working properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi Jay - thanks for the speedy reply.

I installed a "late style starter 9 teeth" part EL013. Got it from a reputable Alfa dealership near London called Classic Alfa. The part looks exactly the same as the original I took off (the only numbers I see on this Bosch OEM part don't match EL013). So, yes, it could be wrong part. But I think the problem may lie elsewhere.

A few (perhaps naive) questions: (1) what is the shoulder bolt? There are 3 bolts that are used on this part - 2 of which connect to the engine and the 3rd (the one that lies away from the engine). All are connected. Is the one that doesn't connect to the engine this shoulder bolt? (2) What is a shim (!) - sorry. Not sure what this is.

Re the battery, it is relatively new and the connections are fine. The positive connector was loose - thereby not sending enough voltage to the starter (this is my theory at least).

One last question - when I replaced the starter I noticed the red/brown wire (NOT the heavy gauge wire that connects via nut) that connects to the top part (the solenoid?) was disconnected. I also noted that a ground wire hanging from the engine, right near the solenoid was just hanging loose. Assuming this ground wire connects to where the red/brown wire goes, I connected them both to the unit. Perhaps I shorted the entire unit by doing this (once the battery connectors were tightened?)
 

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(1) what is the shoulder bolt? There are 3 bolts that are used on this part - 2 of which connect to the engine and the 3rd (the one that lies away from the engine). All are connected. Is the one that doesn't connect to the engine this shoulder bolt?
All three bolts attach the starter to the bellhousing. The bolt farthest away from the crankshaft needs to be a "shoulder bolt" in order to position the starter correctly. See part #10 in the diagram below.

(2) What is a shim (!) - sorry. Not sure what this is.
The shim is a thin piece of steel that goes between the starter and bellhousing. See part "A" in diagram below:


The positive connector was loose - thereby not sending enough voltage to the starter (this is my theory at least).
Yes, that might account for the first starter not working.

when I replaced the starter I noticed the red/brown wire (NOT the heavy gauge wire that connects via nut) that connects to the top part (the solenoid?) was disconnected.
With that wire disconnected, the starter would have been stone dead. So I am puzzled that your first post reported: "Using the headlight test, I established the starter was getting enough juice (the headlights dimmed) but as it wasn't turning over". Is it possible that the red/brown wire got knocked off the solenoid when you were removing the carbs?

I also noted that a ground wire hanging from the engine, right near the solenoid was just hanging loose. Assuming this ground wire connects to where the red/brown wire goes, I connected them both to the unit. Perhaps I shorted the entire unit by doing this (once the battery connectors were tightened?)
I can't figure out what that ground wire would be - where does the other end attach? But sure, if you connect the red/brown wire from the ignition switch to ground, that would result in a big short. This probably explains the smoke that you saw - the red/brown wire and/or ground wire may have burned off their insulation. If the red/brown wire looks serviceable, disconnect the ground wire from the solenoid, and try the starter again - it will probably work.

Note that there should be a braided ground strap between the bellhousing and an 8mm bolt on the right side of the car's body on (near the slave cylinder). If that is missing you can experience poor starter operation.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Well that diagram certainly helps! Looks like I need to get ahold of similar for the entire car!

To clarify a few points:
- I only did the headlight test with the new starter (when the red/brown was connected)
- yes, I have the shim and all 3 bolts, including shoulder bolt
- the 'ground' wire I mentioned was actually this braided ground strap that was connected to the engine but hanging unconnected on the other end. I assumed it should connect to the red/brown - thus the massive short (and smoke!). If one end is connected to the engine, where precisely should I connect the other end to the starter?

I will take off the carbs tmw AM and investigate. Thanks!
 

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I only did the headlight test with the new starter (when the red/brown was connected)
OK, that makes sense.

the 'ground' wire I mentioned was actually this braided ground strap that was connected to the engine but hanging unconnected on the other end. I assumed it should connect to the red/brown
Hmm - I can't figure out how you attached a braided ground strap to a 1/4" faston connector, which makes me wonder if I am understanding you correctly. That red/brown wire from the ignition switch terminates with a female 1/4" faston and plugs onto a male 1/4" faston on the solenoid. How did you connect a braided strap to that?

If one end is connected to the engine, where precisely should I connect the other end to the starter?
The other end of the ground strap attaches to the car's body, as I described in my previous post. There is an excellent electrical connection between the bellhousing - starter - engine through the bolts that hold them all together. No additional ground to the starter is needed.

Without that electrical connection between the bellhousing and body, the engine lacks a good electrical path to ground. Keep in mind that all of the motor & transmission mounts are rubber isolated, as are the exhaust hangers. Without that strap, you are dependent on the throttle linkage and tach/speedo cables to provide a path to ground.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
One end of the ground strap is connected to engine. The other end (the strap is only about 6 inches long) has an O ring which I placed over the fasten. It isn't a great connection (thank god, it turns out) but I thought sufficient. The weird thing is, its connected to the engine, not the body of the car. It was just hanging loose from the engine when I "found" it. Still not sure where the other end goes (as you write it should connect the bell housing to the body, not engine).

I'll take a pic tmw and send - before I potentially fry another starter :)
 

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One end of the ground strap is connected to engine. The other end (the strap is only about 6 inches long) has an O ring
I think I get it. Does it look like the picture below? That's the ground for the carburetors. It bridges between the intake manifold and the rear carb to supress any static build-up. The linkage between the carbs and/or the airbox ensures that the front carb also gets grounded.



The body-to-bell housing ground strap I was referring to is much heavier - looks like:



That one is only visible from underneath the car.
 

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Does red/brown mean a red wire with a brown stripe or a single color that might be red or might be brown?

The wire that brings 12 volts to the solenoid from the ignition switch should be black
 

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Does red/brown mean a red wire with a brown stripe or a single color that might be red or might be brown? The wire that brings 12 volts to the solenoid from the ignition switch should be black
Hmm - what color is the wire to the oil pressure sender? Might jnbottomley have attached that to his starter solenoid?

If the starter noise / puff of smoke happened when the ignition switch was turned to "start", I'm guessing that he has the right wire connected.

Maybe the French color code their wires differently.
 

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Hmm - what color is the wire to the oil pressure sender? Might jnbottomley have attached that to his starter solenoid?
Good work Sherlock. The wire to the pressure transmitter is red and black.
 

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the 'ground' wire I mentioned was actually this braided ground strap that was connected to the engine but hanging unconnected on the other end. I assumed it should connect to the red/brown
I once received a 120 volt shock as a result of an electrician connecting two wires together that were "left over". It was his last day on the job!
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Both - ok, getting closer. Turns out my memory wasn't great with respect to wire colors. The red/black is on the pressure transmitter and what I called red/brown is actually blackish (somewhat multi coloured but closer to black and red/brown). See below.

Another pic is here:

Now, hopefully final questions:
- is it correct that the heavy gauge red wire and the heavy black wire are both connected to the same bolt as the top pic shows? I'm seriously doubting they should but I swear 100% that's how I found the old starter connected. Perhaps the heavy black wire is the ground you refer to, Jay? I try to trace it and it appears it's going to the + on the battery but it runs below the engine so I'm not 100% sure I'm tracing it correctly.
- one the 2nd pic you can see the braided connector that you indicate should be connected to the rear carb. Where exactly, as I cannot see where it would attach?
- finally, I cannot find the ground to body (unless that big black cable in the 1st bullet point above is, in fact, the ground). Where on the body does the body-bellhousing strap connect. You say it's only visible from under the car?
 

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I think that the braided ground wire goes to the bracket at the bottom of the carb support.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
A bit of an update:
- found the ground to body - it is extremely dirty, black in fact, so just managed to feel it is a braided cord. It is connected to the engine below the starter module. I assume this is it?
- tried to fire up the starter. Nothing. Do you think it possible I fried it when I had the ground with the black wire both connected to the solenoid? Is there an easy way to check? (I would prefer to keep the new one on rather than put the old one back if possible)..
 

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- is it correct that the heavy gauge red wire and the heavy black wire are both connected to the same bolt as the top pic shows?
From the photo, the starter appears to be wired correctly.

- found the ground to body - it is extremely dirty, black in fact, so just managed to feel it is a braided cord. It is connected to the engine below the starter module. I assume this is it?
Yes, sounds like it. Dirty, black is no problem as long as both ends are attached. OK, cross this one off your list.

tried to fire up the starter. Nothing. Do you think it possible I fried it when I had the ground with the black wire both connected to the solenoid?
It is hard to see how shorting out the hot lead to the solenoid would fry a starter. But something produced the smoke - can you see any evidence of melted wiring?

I am beginning to wonder if your engine might be frozen. When the new starter was first energized, it might have overheated pushing against a stationary engine. How long was the key in the "start" position? Does the engine turn when you roll the car in 4th gear?

Another thing to check: does the black wire to the solenoid go to +12v when the key is turned to the "start" position? Might shorting that wire at the solenoid have damaged the ignition switch or something else in that circuit?

You are on your own for the next few days - I'm off to Monterey.
 

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The heavy black wire comes from the Battery +ve. The heavy red wire carries the power for everything else on the car. They are correctly attached to the top screw terminal. The 12 gauge black wire from the ignition switch powers the solenoid that energizes the starter. It should be connected to the flat spade terminal that is located to the right of the screw terminals. You can see it in the 12 o'clock position in my picture. If yours is connected correctly, measure the voltage on it. It should be zero and then 12 volts when you try to start the car. Make the measurement with the wire connected as you may get a false reading if it is disconnected.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Hi all - good news - the starter is now working. It seems the short had blown out my ignition (I tested the solenoid lead for +12v and got nothing). Fortunately, I had an old ignition lying around and swapped it in.

So the starter now works and the engine turns over....but won't start! I'll now move on to fuel pump (because I don't smell any fuel whatsoever) and then coil, leads, etc. Ah, the joys of old Alfas!

Appreciate all of the help to get this far. Always difficult when a car has multiple problems.
 

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I went through similar issues a few months ago. In my case it was the battery cables, the ground specifically. I took the clamp apart and when I did the wire was obviously green and corroded. I cleaned the clamp with a wire brush and cut back the ground wire to expose clean wires.

Easy enough to check, let us know. Good luck!
 
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